Wednesday, December 28, 2011

South Boston Institutions of Old

House of Industry, South Boston.



As the 19th Century began, Boston made its first expansion by stealing/annexing South Boston from Dorchester. At the time, the peninsula surrounding Dorchester Heights was sparsely settled, and much smaller than it is today. As the population of the town, and then city grew, developers looked to South Boston as a residential district, while factories began to be built across South Bay from Boston proper.

With the growth of the city came an increase in poverty and of crime. The existing institutions for the care of paupers and the incarceration of criminals were being overwhelmed, and the city fathers looked to the unused lands of South Boston to place their replacements. Under new mayor Josiah Quincy, the city in 1824 bought 53 acres of land along the north shore of the peninsula, looking out at Boston Harbor. There, four institutions would be erected: the House of Industry, House of Reformation, House of Correction and, in 1839, a Lunatic Asylum. The maps above show the layout of the buildings and their significant acreage.

The print above shows the House of Industry, with its gardens that inmates worked to provide for the institutions and to sell in the city. As streets were laid out nearby and people moved in, they did not appreciate being the dumping ground for the city's criminals, neer-do-wells and feeble-minded. And so, the institutions were gradually moved from the site to other out-of-sight locations. Deer Island was one destination, as was Austin Farm, which became the Mattapan State Hospital site. South Boston's grid layout was continued through the old complex, and South Boston washed its hands of its burdensome neighbors.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Old Old City Hall

Boston's first City Hall (BPL Flickr photo group).

Boston made the change from town to city in 1822. At that time, the old State House became a temporary City Hall. In 1841-42, the Old Court House on School street (the building shown above) was taken over as Boston's City Hall. Twenty years later, this building was demolished, and in 1865 the new Old City Hall, which still stands on the site, was opened for business.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Link Time: MBTA Forum

I've added a new link to the forum MBTA board. There are the guys who know the model numbers of every trolly and train that ever ran in Boston, every station that no longer exists, and what work went on in each different maintenance shop. There's a lot of talk about contemporary MBTA issues, but the board is a great source for history as well. To my mind, this is the Internet at its best - people volunteering to share their knowledge with others.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Atlantic Avenue Trains Times Two

South Station with Atlantic Avenue Elevated line.

As some will know, there was once an elevated train line that ran over Atlantic avenue and around the waterfront of the city. The line was part of the original rapid transit plan for the city, a partner to the underground Washington street line. The postcard above shows the elevated structure at South Station. The line followed a loop along Atlantic avenue, Commercial street and Causeway street to North Station.

Boston's rapid transit lines, 1930s.

What fewer people may know is that the Atlantic avenue elevated line was a branch of the main line that would run from Forest Hills to Everett. The map above shows the system with its stops. Coming from the south, a train could either go straight into the downtown tunnel, or turn right at Herald street, and left again on Harrison avenue, in to Beach street, turn right, and then left again and come alongside South Station and follow Atlantic avenue from there. This waterfront route gave people access to South Station, and to what was then a working waterfront, including the ferries that ran both north and south.

Possibly the State Street station.

Rowe's Wharf station.

Atlantic avenue El, just before being torn down.

During the 1920s, jobs on the waterfront were disappearing. The rise of the automobile and the construction of the Sumner Tunnel to East Boston helped kill the ferry service, and ridership declined on the Atlantic avenue line. A wreck at the turn at Harrison avenue and Beach street caused the through route from the main line to Atlantic avenue to be cut, and the Atlantic avenue line became a shuttle between South and North Stations. In 1942, the elevated tracks were taken down and scrapped.

Atlantic Avenue El coming down.

Train running under Atlantic Avenue elevated tracks.

But there's more to Atlantic avenue and trains!

Union Freight Railroad tracks running down Atlantic avenue and spur lines to the wharves and markets (click on image to see larger version).

Atlantic avenue was also the route of a street-level railroad line, the Union Freight Railroad. The line allowed rail access directly to the waterfront wharves and the markets and warehouses on the land side of Atlantic avenue. There is a mention of a 99 year lease for the Atlantic avenue right of way, but apparently the company gave up its rights as the Boston waterfront lost its freight traffic.

Oops! Boxcar goes off the tracks under the Atlantic avenue El.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Braves Field

Entrance to Brave's Field.

My mother once told me that my grandmother used to listen to baseball on the radio while doing her housework. That surprised me, as I knew her only as an elderly woman, playing scrabble or solitaire in her room in my parents house. What surprised me even more was that she did not listen to the Red Sox - she was a Boston Braves fan.

The Boston Braves baseball team had a history that went back in time to the post-Civil War era. I'll leave the various team names, owners and leagues to the baseball aficionados, and start when the team became the Braves in 1912. At the time, the team was playing its home games at the South End Grounds, near today's Ruggles Orange Line T stop. In 1914, the team would win the World Series (although the games were played at the larger Fenway Park), and the next year a new park was built.

Braves Field, 1916.

Braves Field was built between Commonwealth avenue and the Boston & Albany railroad tracks in Brighton. When it opened, it had the largest seating capacity in the National League. Ironically, with the now-larger facility, Braves Field would host the Red Sox when they played in the 1915 and 1916 World Series. Braves Field would also be home field for three professional football teams, including the Boston Braves, who played there for one year before moving to Fenway Park under the new name the Redskins. That franchise would later move to Washington D.C., and is still there today.

Aerial view - note railroad tracks on right (BPL Flickr photo group).

Circa 1930 (BPL Flickr photo group).

Circa 1930. Note railroad tracks and bridge over the Charles river on the left (BPL Flickr photo group).

The original layout of the field included a massive outfield, which made hitting home runs over the fences almost impossible. And although the photos above show a full ballpark, the team did not attract sufficient fans to make ends meet. In 1953, the team moved to Milwaukee. Soon after, the park was sold to Boston University. Two years later, much of the original facility was torn down, but some of the structure does remain. Nickerson Field now stands on the site, along with dormitories and Walter Brown Arena.